An Introduction To Medication-Assisted Treatment
As you learn more about recovery programs and consider which treatment option might be the best fit, you may have questions about terminology and different treatment styles. One common question is what is medication-assisted treatment (MAT)? Depending on your specific needs, your treatment provider might recommend it as part of a comprehensive recovery program. In this article, learn everything you need to know about MAT.
Defining Medication-Assisted Treatment
Medication-assisted treatment is the use of medications to overcome substance abuse disorder, often in conjunction with behavioral therapies. It is commonly used for opioid use disorders. However, some treatment programs use it for alcohol use disorders, too.
In the case of opioid addiction, medication-assisted treatment, also known as MAT, helps to manage the most significant adverse symptoms of opioid withdrawal. The evidence-based therapy reduces drug cravings and possibly corrects imbalanced body chemistry that contributes to addiction.
Types of Medication-Assisted Treatment
According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, there are several medications approved for use in MAT.
For opioid dependency, MAT often includes one of these medications:
- Methadone: This is one of the most common medications used in MAT. It reduces the effects of taking opioids and can reduce cravings and the signs of withdrawal. Used in the early stages as administered by an approved provider, it is an invaluable tool in recovery for some individuals.
- Buprenorphine: This medication reduces or eliminates opioid cravings, which can help with withdrawal symptoms. There a variety of medication administration types, including sublingual tablets, films, implants, and injections.
- Naltrexone: Naltrexone is used for both opioid dependency and alcohol use disorder. It blocks any euphoric effects of substances. With opioids, it also reduces the sedative effects. This can help you to stay in treatment without relapses.
Other medications used to treat alcohol use disorder in the context of medication-assisted treatment are:
- Disulfiram: Often used after detox, disulfiram is a daily pill that causes nausea, chest pain, and headaches after drinking alcohol. This can motivate those in recovery to stay sober to avoid the unpleasant side effects the medication produces when it interacts with alcohol.
- Acamprosate: This medication can be used in the later stages of recovery from alcohol use disorder. The medication improves brain function so that your brain functions more normally, as alcohol use disorder can change how your brain works.
Benefits of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Medication-assisted treatment offers many benefits to those in treatment. This is one of the reasons that MAT remains one of the most popular treatment methods available in many treatment centers. The Providers Clinical Support System notes that MAT is safe, cost-effective, improves treatment outcomes, and reduces criminal activity and disease transmission.
Medication-Assisted Treatment is Safe
Medication-assisted treatment is commonly used and studied. Overall, most treatment providers and researchers consider MAT a safe treatment option, when used in conjunction with a holistic approach to recovery. This includes incorporating MAT with psychotherapy, counseling, and aftercare.
MAT is Cost-Effective
Compared to other forms of in-patient and outpatient treatment, MAT is cost-effective. After the initial stages of recovery, some patients are able to continue MAT while they return to work, live at home, and proceed into aftercare programs. This is often much less expensive than other types of treatment over the long-term. While MAT isn’t used by itself, it is a relatively affordable option to add for treatment.
Improved Treatment Outcomes
Data shows that MAT decreases the risk of overdose, especially after detoxification. Those in the early stages of recovery, after detox, have less tolerance for opioids than they had in the past. This can lead to a fatal overdose. If patients have co-occurring disorders, treating the other conditions is equally important in improving treatment outcomes to address that the factors that contributed to substance use.
Reduces Criminal Activity
Effective and well-supported recovery translates into less criminal activity, as those on medication prescribed by a doctor do not need to engage in any illegal actions to get access to opioids. Judges request that justice-involved individuals participate in medication-assisted treatment because it reduces arrests, probation revocations, and incarceration.
Decreases Disease Transmission
Intravenous drug use and disease transmission go hand in hand. In particular, opioid drug use can increase the spread of infectious diseases like HIV, hepatitis, and tuberculosis. It is in this way that MAT improves public health by promoting evidence-based treatment that helps foster conditions for long-term recovery.
Effectiveness of Medication-Assisted Treatment
Medication-assisted treatment statistics show that MAT is effective. According to the FDA, there are three drugs approved for medication-assisted treatment for opioids: naltrexone, methadone, and buprenorphine. These drugs are both safe and effective when used in tandem with psychosocial support and other therapies.
Research shows that MAT is effective for treatment. In one research study, methadone maintenance was significantly more effective than other, non-pharmacological approaches.
Medication-Assisted Treatment and Therapy
Medication-assisted treatment should be offered as part of a comprehensive treatment program with other treatment methods. Critics argue that MAT might simply replace one opioid with another. However, when used with other interventions such as group therapy and psychotherapy, it is an effective choice that helps some people to manage the more difficult early stages of recovery.
Some of the medications used in medication-assisted treatment are also controlled substances. Like other opioids, MAT requires you to taper off of the prescription medication used for treatment at the end to stop under the supervision and monitoring of a licensed healthcare provider.
What is medication-assisted treatment? It is an effective, evidence-based protocol for helping people recover from opioid dependency and alcohol use disorder. Contact Southeast Addiction today to speak with one of our representatives about medication-assisted treatment and our other modalities today. We’re here to help you on the road to recovery.